To this day Jean Michel Basquiat remains one of the most pervasive artists to have entered the fashion world and is still often cited as a major icon and muse of numerous fashion designers. In 2020 alone, the Basquiat Estate collaborated with numerous brands, from Dr. Martens to Uniqlo, Reebok, and Supreme.
Now a new campaign and collection from Coach are unveiled, with Jennifer Lopez, Michael B. Jordan, Paloma Elsesser, and Basquiat’s niece, Jessica Kelly, wearing the collaboration. We can see a coffee-colored leather handbag features the artist’s sketch of the New York City skyline, while another cream-colored bag has the word “FAMOUS” embroidered on it in the all-caps spelling that we all know and love. Basquiat’s signature crown decorates fanny packs and crossbody bags.
Basquiat used his art for social commentary, often referring to power structures and racist systems. He celebrated the Black and Latino experience when nobody else in the elitist art industry did and that’s what set him apart. I think the reason for Basquiat’s art being so relevant in 2020 and there being so many collaborations is partially because the topics that occupied him back in the 1980s occupy us as a society now more than ever.
Before his death in 1988, Basquiat himself would often mix designer brands with no-name clothes from second-hand stores, frequently using his clothes as a canvas too, painting on his Armani suits and Adidas shirts. Already back then, his influence on fashion was undeniable. One of his first exhibitions was in fact in the store of Patricia Field, the fashion designer who would later go on to be the fashion designer and stylist for “Sex and the City”, a show notorious for its great fashion explorations. (Check out our Sex and the City inspired guide to thrifting like a boss here). Basquiat would paint on her clothes as well, splattering them the same way he did his suits. In the Summer Season 1978, Basquiat sauntered down the runway for Comme des Garcons. (Read about Rei Kawakubu’s influence on society here)
“He loved clothes,” recalls J. Stearns, the silkscreen printer that Basquiat worked with from 1983-1984 during his time in Los Angeles. “I was a bit of a clothes horse in those days too, and so we’d often talk about it…he loved all the big names, Armani, Issey Miyake, you know…whenever he came into L.A., he always shopped at Maxfield, Bloomingdale’s, Rodeo Drive, you know, the big names. Jean-Michel never did anything half-way.”
Now Basquiat’s passion for clothes is now living on through all the wonderful collaborations with his estate and his neo-expressionist art, with references to African art and American pop culture, can now be worn on shoes, on jackets, and on Coach bags.